Tag Archives: Race and Racism

Racism at Hopkins High

Hopkins High School is one of the top public schools in Minnesota, which prides itself, though not always with justification, as having excellent public schools. Hopkins is in an “outer ring” suburb of the Twin Cities. This is a set of bedroom communities developed over the last several decades as well-to-do city folk moved out of the urban core, and American immigrants from the coasts and elsewhere moved to the Twin Cities during periods of economic prosperity and growth. These suburbs and their schools are relatively white and relatively privileged. We see racist things in these places from time to time.

Back in February, the ski team had an away trip, over Presidents’ Day weekend. The students took the initiative to incorporate a theme in their dress on the trip. They would wear “ghetto” or as some called it “rapper” attire. These were mainly white students doing a parody of African American urban culture. A couple of African American students learned of this on the day the students were to leave, and by midday had lodged a complaint with the administration, indicating that they felt that this was a racist and disrespectful making fun of the very small minority of black students in the school. The ski trip students were allowed to continue with their dress up game, and the school later claimed (despite evidence to the contrary) that they learned of this problem too late to do anything about it. Apparently, an organized act of racism was not considered a reason to either delay departure to give the privileged white students time to change their clothes. Apparently, an organized act of racism was not considered reason to cancel the trip and sit down with the students for some sensitivity training, or for that matter, to discipline them.

Two of the African American students in the school decided to protest the event. They produced posters, which I’ve not seen, and placed them on wall space within the school. The administration immediately took these posters down, claiming (probably correctly) that students are not allowed to put things on walls without the administration approving the materials. After the posters were taken down, the African American protesting students went to an assistant principal’s office to get the posters back, and the assistant principal did exactly what one would expect one would do in a Twin Cities mainly white suburb when the angry black people show up: The police were called in. All Twin Cities schools have police officers on hand (just like the NRA has been suggesting for everybody).

According to the police one of the African American students placed his hand on the chest of the police officer to move around him while trying to carry the posters out of the office. According the students, there was no putting of hands on any police officers.

The two students were arrested, charged, expelled for three days and fined.

Later, the white ski trip students sat with the African American students and the school’s administration. The white students expressed regret for their racist act and said they were sorry. They were sent off with the appreciation of the administration for their brief moment of contrition. The African American students were sent off with a police record. Zero tolerance for civil disobedience in protest of racism. Full tolerance for actual racism.

Way to go, Hopkins High.

UPDATE: I’ve noticed that some inter-mural sporting events, including skiing, have rules about racist and sexist behavior. It seems as though this may have been a violation of such rules. One wonders why the school allowed a sports team to go to a meet while clearly violating a rule like this, if this is the case. If the students “needed” to dress in their racialized costumes because they had nothing else to wear, a reasonable though unpleasant decision on the part of the administration would then have been to simply cancel the trip.


The story was discussed today on Minnesota Public Radio. Photo from HopkinsPatch

Covert Ops: Addressing Racism Long Term

I’ve been waiting for people to die before I told this story on my blog, but certain people seem to take forever to do that so I’m not waiting any more. Besides, it happened a long time ago. The story I’m telling you happened to me a long time ago (about 1990) and the thing that happened to me really amounted to someone telling me a story, which in turn happened a long time before that (about 1977).

There had been some kind of thing, a barbecue, at the home of Scotty MacNeish. If you don’t know who Scotty is, you should. He is the archaeologist who discovered and documented the origins of corn in the highlands of Mexico. He was a justifiably famous and generally respected archaeologist who, enigmatically, worked at a prep school instead of a university for much of his career. At the time of his death, in a vehicle accident while in the field in Belize, Scotty worked at Boston University, but for many years before that he was at Phillips Andover Academy. Phillips Andover is the archetypal American prep school, a pretty good imitation of the old style British prep schools, but located in the small community of Andover, Massachusetts, north of Boston. Until recently, Phillips prepared its students mostly for Yale, though a few would go to Harvard. Samuel Morse went there and later invented Morse Code and stuff. Oliver Wendell Holmes went there. Two American Presidents went there.

So, there was this barbecue at Scotty’s house, and Bruno Marino was the chef. That was the first time I had met him. We later became friends and colleagues and later on he went off to run the revamped Biosphere project. The thing about Bruno is that he was CIA. This meant that any event involving food and Bruno, you’d want to go to, because as you know those CIA guys really know how to cook.

Since we were at Scotty’s house, we were also on or very near (I was never sure) the property of the Academy. It seems we just had to walk through the gate in the backyard fence and we were amid the bricks and ivy of the venerable old institution. And at one point, Scotty and I wandered off to the museum and library, which on this summer weekend evening was closed and dark.

Scotty wanted to show me a wooden cabinet he was about to throw in the trash, along with some other items, because I had expressed an interest in it. In fact, that evening I took the item home where it still serves me nicely today. It is a small solid oak card catalog, one of many the library was getting rid of as they started the switch to other means of keeping track of their books.

At some point we wandered off to the museum. We stood in a darkened hall and talked for a while. I could see that there were exhibits around the walls, but the lighting for each exhibit was turned off so I could not see what they were. That’s when Scottie started to tell me the story.

“Years ago, we had a directors meeting here, with the board of directors of the Academy. They were all former students, and all had gone off to Yale and were all pretty wealthy. Doug and I (that was Doug Byers, the famous anthropologist who also worked at Phillips Andover) had the job of schmoozing the richest and most powerful, to see if we could get more money out of them. So we took one of the directors up there,” he pointed up to the room we had just visited, where the oak cabinet had been stored, “for cognac and cigars.”

We may or may not have been sipping something out of glasses ourselves at that moment, but I’m sure we were not puffing on cigars.

“So, our visitor knew who we were, what our research was. He told us, ‘You gentlemen are anthropologists, and there’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask an anthropologist.'”

I should mention that Scotty was the kind of guy who liked trouble, and I could tell by his expression that he was about to reveal something … troublesome. I had seen him go after the unprepared, the uninitiated, before. He knew then up in the room with the brandy and cigars with Byers, and I knew later as he was telling me the story, that it was going to be one of those questions that revealed a common misunderstanding about something about humans, something about evolution or human behavior or history or biology, one of those things people ask innocently about, without realizing that the question itself, the question they naively seek an answer to, reveals their own abysmal ignorance or nefarious racism or something. Indeed, I suspected as he was telling me that it was going to be about race. And it was.

“He said, and these are close to his exact words, ‘I know that Negro brains are smaller. But they seem to have the same size heads as everyone else. So, my question is…'”

At this moment, Scotty paused for effect. There were a lot of ways this could have gone, but the question was finished off, according to Scotty, this way: “‘… my question is, is the extra space filled with bone, so they have very thick skulls, or is it liquid? Or what?'”

That was a pretty stark question. Naive. Ignorant. Nefariously racist. The kind of question, though, that Doug Byers or Scotty MacNeish or me or any anthropologist would get asked a half dozen times a year back in those days, and now and then even these days. So, why was he, Scotty, telling me this story now, in 1990? This wasn’t about someone being stupid. This was about WHO was being stupid. The name at the end of this tale was going to be someone I’d know, or recognize. Someone who was older and established today, likely someone who had gone to Yale. Someone who had lived, back in the 70s or 80s, near enough to Andover Massachusetts to have been on the board of the Academy.

“What did you tell him?” I asked, wondering which of the possible stock answers they might have used, to inform the man but at the same time avoid having him dry up as a donor.

“Who the hell knows, I don’t remember. Byers gave him some mumbo jumbo. The point is, after that evening, we went to work right away on this exhibit.”

I hadn’t noticed Scotty sidling over to the wall near the base of the big central stairway, near one of the darkened exhibits. He reached up to a switch on the wall and flipped it on. The lights inside the exhibit, a diorama of sorts, sprang on and I could suddenly see a number of human brains sitting each in their own straight sided, round bowls that looked like over grown Petri dishes.

“Have a look,” Scotty said, gesturing towards the brains.

I looked. There were brains labeled “Caucasian”, “African”, “Asian”, and “Native American.” Each brain looked pretty realistic, wet, fresh, and there seemed to be fluid accumulated in each of the preternaturally large Petri dishes. All of it was fake, of course. The liquid was Lucite, and with my highly trained Biological Anthropology eye I could easily see that the brains were all molded from the same exact cast.

The text above the brains included a map and some other items but one paragraph was highlighted and foregrounded and it said, roughly, “…all humans have the same brain, the same size, with the same abilities. Race is a made up concept and is only skin deep,” or words to that effect.

“This,” Scotty resumed his story, “is ultimately how we answered the question. It didn’t matter as much to us that this guy had race all botched up, it mattered more that the students wold get it right from then on.”

He looked at me and I could see the “I’m going to cause trouble now” look setting in.

“Of course, with this particular member of the board of directors, it may have mattered more than average.”

“Who was it, Scotty?” I asked, as he expected me to ask.

“Let’s just say that among ourselves, between Doug and me, we named the exhibit after him,” Scotty said, holding his arm out, drawing my attention back to the diorama. “Behold, the George H. Bush Memorial Exhibit on Race!”

I was not even a little surprised. With this much fanfare, it had to be a president or something.

“Of course, he wasn’t President back in those days. Or even Vice President. He was still merely head of the CIA.

That would be the other CIA, of course.

US Justice Department Will Investigate Murder of Trayvon Martin

I’m sure you’ve heard by now, but the US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have opened an official investigation into the killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin by a vigilante “Neighborhood Watch” member George Zimmerman. Zimmerman pursued, confronted, then shot to death Trayvon Martin who was on his way home from the convenience store having picked up a bag of Skittles. Local police, apparently caught like deer in the headlights of an idiotic recently enacted Florida Law stating, according to some, that you can kill anyone you want as long as you can later say that they made you feel icky, have refuses to even bring Zimmerman in for questioning.

There have been protests, a lot of noise from the Liberal Blogosphere, and even a write in campaign using the Sanford Police’s own web site (click here to get in on that!), and limited criticism from the press.

(The 911 calls related to this case are very damning of Zimmerman, and you can listen to them here.)

Stand Your Ground, Racism, and the Second Amendment

I want you to do a little thought experiment. Don’t worry, if you have had a long day and your brain is tired, it won’t be too hard. If you’re a Teabagger and are not very smart, it won’t be too hard. If you’re a middle class white person with concerns about brown people moving into your sleepy suburb and all your wealth and privilege came to you more or less by accident and your morality, such as it is, comes to you mainly by default, it won’t be … well actually, for you this might be hard but I’m sure you can do it. Continue reading Stand Your Ground, Racism, and the Second Amendment

Are you annoyed by those pesky Indians and Black folk?

All that whinging and hand wringing about slavery, taking the land from the Indians, and all that stuff is very annoying, especially when the assertion is made that our founding fathers had anything do to with all that. Even though they did. But still, it is very annoying to have the names of those who saw fit to found this nation besmirched by the so called “facts” of “history.”

And that is why the Tennessee Tea Party wants to make it illegal in the Mottoless State of Tennessee to teach the truth. Here’s the wording they propose:

“No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”

Continue reading Are you annoyed by those pesky Indians and Black folk?

Women in Elevators and Black Guys Sneaking Up Behind You

As you may know, I wrote a post, Women in Elevators: A Man To Man Talk For The Menz, in which I wrote:

I am not afraid of dogs, and most women are probably not “afraid of men.”

Except I’m actually afraid of dogs and most women are justifiably afraid of men. If you get what I’m saying so far, go away and do something useful because this post is not written for you. If you are puzzled, especially about the idea of women being afraid of men at all, then sit down, shut up, and allow me to slap you across the chops a couple of times with a little reality because that is what you need. Assuming you are a sentient adult and still have no clue.

Several people got really really mad at me because of that post … I literally lost a few friends … and they got even madder when I pointed out that getting mad at me for that post increased in my mind the chance that you are likely to be abusive to women. Holy crap. Anyway, it all relates to the whole Schrödinger’s Rapist thing. (See this recent post at Camels with Hammers for more on that)

Anyway, one of the responses to that post (and other conversations going on at the time) was to point out that a man saying that he recognized that women could be justifiably nervous about running across an unknown male on a lonely street at night was equivalent to saying that all black people are criminals. Or something like that.

Well, my bloggy friend Ian Cromwell who it turns out is a big scary black guy has addressed that issue, skillfully and engagingly, in a post called “Shuffling feet: a black man’s view on Schroedinger’s Rapist.” Go have a look.

Danny Chen’s Death: The Ultimate Hate Crime?

Nineteen year old Private Danny Chen killed himself with a firearm in a combat station in Kandahar, Afghanistan after being taunted and verbally and physically abused in a decidedly racist manner by several of his fellow soldiers. Eight such soldiers, of C Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, are now facing charges related to Danny’s death. The details of the charges have not been released.

Officials said …

… 1st Lt. Daniel J. Schwartz, Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas, Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Van Bockel, Sgt. Adam M. Holcomb, Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst, Spc. Thomas P. Curtis, Spc. Ryan J. Offutt and Sgt. Travis F. Carden were all charged Friday with counts ranging from dereliction of duty to making a false statement to assault, negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.

It was not clear from the information provided whether the military believes the soldiers actually killed Chen, or whether officials are alleging that their mistreatment of Chen led him to take his own life.

More at the Washington Post

Forbes’ Gene Marks Needs To Check His Priv

Gene Marks, you wrote an essay for Forbes that has gotten a lot of people rather upset. People are upset because you display insensitive unchecked privilege and, essentially, you blame an entire class of people as the victims of what is mostly not their fault but rather, your fault and the fault of the modal Forbes reader, as well as society more broadly, history, culture, economics, racism and all sort of other things that are largely beyond the control of the Poor Black Kids of the Inner City of whom you write.

I think you meant well, but you did not do well. There are many ways in which you display a marked lack of a clue about your topic. How so? Let’s start at the beginning of your essay: Continue reading Forbes’ Gene Marks Needs To Check His Priv

SCOTUS will review Arizona’s Immigration Law

Moments ago, the Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to review a highly controversial Arizona law. This promises to be one of the more significant things they’ve done in a while.

The deck is stacked for a more conservative ruling because Justice Kagan will recuse as she worked on the law while in the Obama administration.

Continue reading SCOTUS will review Arizona’s Immigration Law

Racial Bias in Presidential Pardons?

The pardon process relies on the recommendations of a special office of the White House, which takes a number of factors (not skin color) into account overtly, including things like level of remorse or financial or family factors. The process was, wisely one would have thought, depoliticized by George Bush at the beginning of his first term, so that the professional pardon lawyers’ recommendations are routinely followed, plus or minus only small variations.

So, we therefore know that the fact that a white person is 400% more likely to be pardoned than a black person is not because of some yahoo racist president or evil chief of staff. Rather, it’s just how the legal system turns out.

Propublica did the study that gives us these results. Continue reading Racial Bias in Presidential Pardons?

Why do NASCAR fans hate our troops?

Several NASCAR fans booed two women who were announcing the start of a race (with the famous words “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!!”). The women were part of the “Joining Forces” initiative, which is in support of military families. The women stood next to retired Army Sgt. Andrew Barry, who was wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is unclear why NASCAR fans hate America.

Source

Cain’s Sexual Harassment Problems

It does look like there may be something to the allegations, and there does seem to be some denial followed by backpedaling.

Herman Cain
Herman Cain

I would like to point out, however, that he was a male CEO, a person of power, wealth, and fame. This is often true of the men in the race, and in presidential races generally. When Norm Colemen was trying to get re-elected as Senator from Minnesota, very credible and verifiable details of his horrid “womanizing” (a term I never quite understood but whatever) behaviors came out, and no one noticed or cared or did anything about it except a few of us bloggers. It took years for the John Edwards thing to come out. As it were. Remember Gary Hart? Same thing.

Continue reading Cain’s Sexual Harassment Problems

Is gun control racist?

That’s actually not the correct question. The answer to “Is gun control racist?” is no, because if I ask you that question, you assume I mean current modern day gun control efforts in the United States. If anything, gun control is the opposite of racist, give who is most affected by lack of it, ans who most wants more of it, and the nature of the pro-gun lobby when it comes to issues of race.
Continue reading Is gun control racist?